Iconic city parks began to be built in many of America’s large cities just before the Civil War. Master landscaper Frederick Law Olmsted designed many of these parks. He helped build Belle Isle in the middle of the Detroit River. He designed parks in Buffalo, Chicago, Louisville, Niagara and Montreal, as well as in Connecticut and Wisconsin. In each case, these were an oasis from the bustle of city life. Many of these parks serve the same purpose today.
The country’s 100 largest cities are home to numerous cityland parks filled with nature, recreational facilities and historic commemorations. All told, there are 495 public and private parks, and recreational organizations in these metro areas oversee about 2 million acres of parkland, according to the Trust for Public Land’s “2021 City Park Facts,” the latest edition of the nonprofit’s annual parks data compilation.
To identify the most visited park in America’s largest cities, 24/7 Tempo reviewed the visitation data from the Trust for Public Land report. Topping the list is New York City’s iconic Central Park, where 42 million visitors stroll through its pathways and lakes each year.
A rectangular oasis of green surrounded by a towering urban landscape, the park traces its origins to 1853, when the city, pushed by wealthy merchants who wanted an area resembling the public parks in London and Paris, acquired 700 acres in the middle of Manhattan by the power of eminent domain.
A Central Park Commission was appointed, and after a landscape design contest, a plan submitted by Frederick Law Olmsted, the park’s superintendent at the time, and Calvert Vaux, an English-born architect, got the nod. Some 20,000 laborers worked on this massive public project, which opened to the public in 1859.